According to US census data from 1960 onward, Racine's population maxed out in 1970 at 95,000 residents and has been in decline ever since. By 1980 we were down to 85,000, by 1990 we were down to 84,000, and we lost another 3,000 by 2000. Estimated population for 2005 was 79,000, meaning we have lost 16,000 residents since 1970.
The decline in residents has resulted in a surplus of housing. This in turn puts downward pressure on housing values. So we now have abundant amounts of cheap housing relative to the surrounding area. But the lure of low cost housing is still not enough to stop our population decline.
So we continue to have more houses than we have homeowners willing to live in them. This in turn leads to one of four less desireable outcomes. Either the excess homes will be abandoned, or they will be purchased by hopeful landlords, or the government will get in the housing business, or they will be razed. Of the four options for the surlus housing, landlord ownership seems least objectionable.
As such, it is not a wise strategy to blame landlords (and make their lives difficult) for the housing surplus in Racine. If we chase away landlords, we will not magically increase the numbers of owner-occupied homes in Racine. There is already ample opportunity for people to choose to buy a home in Racine and live in it. But as we see from the census data, more people are preferring to leave Racine than relocate here. Landlords are not the cause of this phenomenon, they are merely a symptom of it.
Racine is ideally located on Lake Michigan between two major cities. People are nonetheless voting with their feet and residing elsewhere. Rather than address the real reasons for this phenomenon, our local politicians prefer to scapegoat landlords, all the while ignoring their policy choices that are pushing our residents out the door.